You may think that you could never do the moves shown in the photos, but so did I once. Be encouraged. Hoop moves for beginners have been carefully designed to start working the body in different ways that will gradually make it stronger and more flexible. For beginners, one class per week is plenty to enable good progress.
Beginner moves have also been designed to maximise safety, and so they tend to stay away from the highest part of the hoop. We call the part of the hoop near the top the 'top bar', where the hoop tab is attached to the cord it hangs from. In some beginner moves you hold the top bar of the hoop for support, but mainly you stay away from it. Most beginner moves happen either inside the circle of the hoop or hanging underneath the hoop or a combination of these.
And note that a hoop move itself is not the whole story. To do a single hoop move, you have to get off the ground and onto the hoop first, and afterwards get safely back onto the ground in a controlled manner. This mounting and dismounting work starts to build your strength and stamina. And actually before long you will be stringing two or three moves together into a sequence, which works you even harder.
If you are worried about not being strong enough to mount the hoop, then don't be. For new beginners, we hang the hoop low enough for you to hook your knee into it without leaving the ground.
Keep reading to find out more about the things you will be doing as an aerial hoop beginner. I have grouped them as
There are hundreds of aerial hoop moves, including dozens of beginner moves. Some beginner moves are essentially drapes. The body is draped over the hoop, supported by the hoop and hanging over it working with gravity.
In drapes, the body is mostly relaxed. There is not much effort involved, and you are really resting, not working. In Cradle, your neck, upper back, thigh, and knee-back are supported by the hoop, getting used to the pressure of the steel. The hard part, the part that requires effort, is getting in and out of this position. In other drapes, the body is held in more tension, as in the harder move Gazelle.
Some beginner moves involve hanging the body off the hoop by the hands, ankles (Candlestick), knee-backs (Hocks Hang), elbow-creases—anywhere you can hook on. (One advanced move involves hanging from your heels! Somewhat incredible.) Hangs differ from drapes in that they require much more tension in the muscle groups. Hanging improves strength, stability, and flexibility. For example, hanging by the hands improves wrist, arm, and grip strength, and works your shoulders, back, and core muscles.
Many hoop moves challenge and work your ability to balance. Beginner moves Full Balanced Seat and Man in the Moon are great examples. Full Balanced Seat looks so simple, but the whole body has to work hard to stay seated if there is no additional steadying support from the arms.
The hoop hangs from a cord and so is not static. It moves about all the time in response to your movements, even in response to your breathing, and so you need to continually make small corrections to remain balanced. Balancing is an important neuromotor skill that children play with but many of us lose as we get older.
All hoop moves involve engaging in a firm way with a wobbly steel hoop. You're either gripping it, hooked over it, pulling on it, balancing on it... Beginners' bodies need to get used to the feel of the steel as it is probably unlike anything you have experienced before.
High Arabesque and Star on the Bar are good examples of where the body's weight is pressing down on the steel. I still find Star on the Bar a challenge. I don't have much padding and the bones in my lower back feel very close to the steel. In High Arabesque, that steel is pressing on my right inner thigh, which takes a bit of getting used to. In High Arabesque, I am also hanging from the top bar by my right hand. Hands also need to get used to the steel, and must develop a strong grip and tougher skin.
Sometimes the pressure of the hoop is uncomfortable and so we need to condition a body part over several weeks by starting with a small amount of pressure and building upwards. There are special conditioning exercises to help you do this. So don't worry. If a move is uncomfortable for you, you can choose to not do it at all, or we can work on some conditioning.
Now you know about how beginner hoop moves start to develop your balance, core stability, strength, flexibility, and grip. And how the moves help you to get used to the feel of the steel.
So what about intermediate moves? What is special about those?